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Core training is probably the most overused and misunderstood concept in the field of exercise and training.  Many people believe that classic abdominal wall training, such as sit-ups and crunches, are what comprise core training, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The most significant role of the core musculature lies not in its role as a mover of the body, but in its ability to stabilize the body against outside forces.  This employs the deep-lying stabilizer muscles that surround the spine and support the pelvis.  This network of stabilizers is relatively inactive in classical “ab” training.  What is really required is stabilization training to activate this deep-set group of muscles.

Stabilization training of the core can be done in a myriad of creative ways. The goal is to activate muscles responsible for keeping the spine safe when performing other activities, such as heavy lifting.  These muscles also have a supremely important role in keeping postural muscles in balance and providing them with the endurance necessary to keep us sitting, standing, and performing all activities with good posture and correct muscle activation.  In short, without a well-trained core, all other exercises are falling short in both effectiveness and safety.  So if your goal is a balanced and strong body that will keep you moving well for a lifetime, this series of challenging core exercises should be a mainstay in your training program.

 

Hollow Body Hold

Taken from the world of gymnastics, this amazing core stability exercise will have you shaking like a leaf on a tree!

  • Take a lying position on your back with your legs straight up in the air
  • Peel your shoulders up off the ground as you would in a crunch movement. This peeling movement should push your lower back flush to the floor
  • Your chin should stay tucked throughout the exercise
  • Once your low back is tight to the floor and your abs are engaged, slowly lower the weight of your (straight) legs toward the floor
  • Once your abs are under tension that can be stabilized and your back is maintained on the floor, hold the position for requisite time
  • Try 20 seconds of holding, followed by 20 seconds of rest for five rounds

Once the above workout can be completed with good ab and back tension, try placing your arms overhead to place even greater stress on the midsection

 

Bird Dogs

The Bird Dog is a surprisingly tough full-body strengthener that will develop balance and coordination matching its benefit to your core musculature.

  • Assume a quadrupled kneeling position with your knees on the floor directly under your hips and your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders
  • Brace your abs and flatten your back
  • Reach the opposite arm and leg straight until both are aligned with the back angle
  • Hold this posture, trying to actively lengthen both your arm and your leg at the same time
  • Try holding for 20 seconds on one side followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeat on the other side. Repeat for five rounds each side.

Once the above workout can be completed, try holding light weights in your hand or attached to your leg for an added challenge

 

Bridge Marching

Marching in bridge is a great way to rebalance and strengthen all of the muscles that support the hips and pelvis.  It is incredibly tough to keep those hips up and level.  Brace up and stay tight!

  • Start in a lying position on your back
  • Place your heels underneath your knees
  • Brace your abs and lift your hips toward the ceiling until a straight line is formed between your knees and shoulders
  • While maintaining your hips stable and level, start slowly marching each foot off the floor,only 3-4 inches
  • Continue marching slowly for 20 seconds; rest 10 seconds, and repeat for five rounds

For an added challenge once the above workout can be completed, try placing your hands overhead, flat on the floor.

 

Starfish Plank

Taken from our friends in the world of yoga, this full-body trunk and shoulder stability move will get you shaking and sweating in no time!

  • Take a side-lying position on the floor
  • Place your hand directly underneath your shoulder flat on the floor
  • Stack your feet on top of each other
  • Lift your entire body up, balancing between your support hand and your stacked feet until a straight line is formed between your feet and shoulders with your entire body
  • Reach your free hand toward the ceiling
  • Hold this position with tight abs and your butt squeezed for 20 seconds; rest ten seconds, then switch sides and repeat for five rounds each side

Once the above workout can be completed, try lifting your top foot and leg up into free space.

 

All of the above exercises are fantastic independently or as a circuit.  They were specifically selected to develop different aspects of the core musculature’s function, meaning they can all be done in circuit-style for an added challenge.